We believe that it’s important to be proactive instead of reactive. We believe in supplying our communities, youth and families with the tools they need to be leaders in their communities, and to address some of the world's toughest issues. So often we find ourselves sitting in disbelief after tragedy, “How did we not see this?”, “I wish I knew.”, “We didn’t see any signs!” What could I have done?”
We are here to share with you the warning signs and common myths when it comes to suicide, to better equip you, our youth, families and community, to combat stigma, create safer communities and prevent suicide.
“Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can’t see one”. - Help Guide
Suicide Warning Signs:
Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide—it’s a cry for help.
Talking about suicide – Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means – Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death – Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others – Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm – A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.
Suicide Prevention Tip #1: Speak up if you are worried!
If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help—the sooner the better.
But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.
How to start a conversation about suicide:
“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed like yourself lately.”
Questions to ask:
“When did you begin feeling like this?”
“Did something happen to make you start feeling this way?”
“How can I best support you right now?”
“Have you thought about getting help?”
The Do’s and Don’ts of talking to a suicidal person:
(Do) Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that they are not alone. Finding the right words are not nearly as important as showing your concern.
(Do) Listen. Let your friend or loved one vent and unload their feelings. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it is taking place is a positive sign.
(Do) Be sympathetic and non-judgmental. The suicidal person is doing the right thing by talking about their feelings, no matter how difficult it may be to hear.
(Do) Offer hope. Reassure your loved one that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that their life is important to you.
(Do) Take the person seriously. If a suicidal person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask if they’re having thoughts of suicide. You’re allowing them to share their pain with you, not putting ideas in their head.
(Don’t) Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Just snap out of it.”
(Don’t) Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or argue that suicide is wrong.
(Don’t) Promise confidentiality or be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
(Don’t) Offer ways to fix your loved one’s problems, give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
(Don’t) Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. Your friend or loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.
Suicide Prevention Tip #2: Respond quickly in a crisis.
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for taking their life in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
Do you intend to take your own life? (INTENTION)
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.
Suicide Prevention Tip #3: Offer help and support
If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for healing your loved one. You can offer support, but you can’t make a suicidal person get better. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.
It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.
To help a suicidal person:
Get professional help. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor’s appointment.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741-741
Follow-up on treatment. If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to find the medication or therapy that’s right for a particular person.
Be proactive. Those contemplating suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at offering assistance. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague. Don’t wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop by, call again, invite the person out.
Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of steps he or she can follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
Remove potential means of suicide, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give them out only as the person needs them.
Continue your support over the long haul. Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.
HelpGuide. (2019, October). Suicide Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention.htm